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Published on August 9th, 2013


Five Emerging Trends in Association Governance

By Gillian Barnes, S-LP(C)
This article has been republished from the Summer 2013 issue of Communiqué.
Please note that this article was originally published when Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) was called the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA).

The CASLPA Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) continues to invest an incredible amount of time in diligently guiding our association through the governance review process. You can read previous updates from the task force here:

The future ain’t what it used to be by Joanne Charlebois, CASLPA Executive Director. Communiqué, Spring 2012.

Challenges & Opportunities of the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act by Gillian Barnes, S-LP(C) Chair, CASLPA Governance Review Task Force. Communiqué, Spring 2013.

Governance Review by Joanne Charlebois, CASLPA Executive Director. Communiqué, Summer 2012.

Quick conversations with Judy Meintzer and Gillian Barnes (video interview) by Krystle van Hoof, Director of Communications and Public Affairs. Communiqué, Fall 2012.

There are five emerging trends in association governance and the task force, along with CASLPA’s Board of Directors, is working to determine which of these trends make sense for our association.

1. Smaller Boards

Associations are recognizing the benefits of having smaller boards. From a process standpoint, it is much easier for 10 people to agree on a course of action than it is for a group twice as large.

In many cases, reducing board size also means dealing with issues like appropriate constituent representation. It’s never an easy task, but associations are creating new ways to make sure their members’ voices and concerns are heard. For example, some associations are setting up advisory councils to ensure that members with specific concerns or areas of interest can communicate directly with their association.

In addition, the new Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act is requiring associations to re-think the size of their boards by legislating a minimum and a maximum board size. The GRTF views the Act as a great opportunity for CASLPA to reassess the number of members on our Board.

2. A Move Towards Ad Hoc Task Forces

Associations are starting to favour ad hoc task forces over standing committees.

Volunteers often become disillusioned with committee service because the tasks they are assigned are too vague. Associations now realize that it is much easier to recruit a volunteer for a task force that has a clear assignment and time commitment, than it is to recruit a volunteer for a standing committee. CASLPA has already adopted this practice and has established four ad hoc committees over the past year.

3. Leadership Development Committees

As boards recognize the ongoing importance of peak performance, nominating committees are now becoming “governance and leadership development committees”. Instead of getting together to propose a slate of nominees, these broader committees identify and cultivate future leaders within the Board of Directors.

4. Including Public Board Members

Boards facing multifaceted issues can benefit from an outside perspective. One innovative way to accomplish this is to add a “public” member to the board (for CASLPA, this would mean someone outside the professions).

5. Speeding up Succession

One of the biggest challenges facing board development committees is defining a leadership path that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

Associations that provide thorough orientations, ongoing training and written policy manuals give their board members an in-depth understanding that formerly would have only been gained after years “on the job”. This increased training means that individuals need less time to become strong and capable board leaders.


Gillian Barnes, S-LP(C)
Chair, Governance Review Task Force, SAC

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